Before Usain Bolt, there was Michael Johnson. Back in the '90s, the "King" of track and field took home four Olympic gold medals and clocked in some of the fastest times in history while wearing his signature golden Nikes. And now, the sprinter's addressing the stiff, straight up-and-down running style that garnered him so much criticism when he first hit the track.
"All of the kids made fun of my running style even though I was winning. Even though I was faster than them," he told TODAY for their "Where Are They Now?" series on iconic Olympic stars."People always said, 'Did that make you feel bad, that they talked about your running style?' No, it didn't. Because I was always winning the races." (Psst: One new study finds the secret to running longer, faster.)
"Ultimately, we commissioned some studies to be done on my style so we could understand what I was doing and how it was working for me. And we found my upright style was much more efficient," he said. Johnson, who made history when he became the only athlete to win both the 200m dash and the 400m dash events at the same Olympics, explained that for these distances "you're able to produce much more power and force into the ground. Force into the ground equals speed." (He still holds the world record for the 400m; his other record for the 200m was broken by Bolt in 2008).
Today, Johnson runs a performance center using Nike technology to help athletes achieve their potential. And for the record, he says if he could turn back the clocks and race Bolt in the 200m during his prime, he would "win that race every day." Game on.